Summer’s Lease

It’s September already, and to quote Shakespeare, “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” I don’t know about you (or should I say, “I knoweth not what thou thinkest”), but I’m looking forward to autumn—”when yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang”.[1]

Although I didn’t venture too many places this summer, I did have a few new experiences and even discovered a different perspective on the familiar.

North Carolina Botanical Garden
Tucked into a corner of this free public garden, which is operated by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is a large and diverse collection of colorful carnivorous plants. It’s worth a look:

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Three hybrid pitcher plants at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. — Chapel Hill

Not far from these native bog plants is the Poison Garden. I don’t know how I missed this area all the other times I visited! I was enthralled—from sinister garden gate to the beguiling mountain laurel.

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The gate leading to the Poison Plant garden provides an artful warning of what lies ahead. — NC Botanical Garden (Chapel Hill, NC)

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Every part of the striking mountain laurel is poisonous–from leaf and bloom to the drops of honey it produces. If eaten, it causes nausea, stomach pain, difficulty breathing, loss of coordination, paralysis, and sometimes death. Ironically, mountain laurel can also be used in ointment to treat skin disorders. — NC Botanical Garden (Chapel Hill, NC)

Kart Track
I spent a bit of time at a sprint karting track. Rest assured, I was not behind the wheel. Rather, there were seven and eight-year-olds behind the wheel, my nephew included. That may sound a bit astonishing, to say the least. On the one hand, they were just kids—children who flung their arms around one another in greeting and who navigated the garage area on scooters between practice sessions, qualifying, and racing. On the other hand, they were focused little racers once their kart wheels rolled onto the asphalt. My nephew enjoys racing over any other sport—but maybe not as much as he loves Legos.

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Looking past the “boogity, boogity, boogity” and checkered flag, one can appreciate the uniqueness of a racetrack –it’s there at every track if one is curious to look. For instance, Victory Lane’s three-tiered stand at the aforementioned track is material (block curbs) salvaged from a former venue in Italy, the historic Kartdromo Parma track.

Duke Gardens
This place never gets old, but I discovered it in a whole new way a few months ago—in the evening, just before sunset. As the day winds to a close, a quiet falls over the Gardens and the colors of the sky reach down and paint areas such as the Garden Pond, Perennial Allee, and Blomquist Pavilion in tempered light and shades of gold that heighten their beauty.

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The Moss Garden at Duke Gardens looks particularly charming in the fading sunlight. — Durham, NC

Duke Gardens is open until dusk, and many people take advantage of this for evening strolls, romantic rendezvous, picnics on the lawn, or solitary contemplation. I’ve also seen more numerous and varied kinds of wildlife at this time of day.

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A sunflower makes its final bow in the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

Perhaps you’ve been to these or similar places as well, or might like to put them on your list of things to do. The lease on summer may be coming to an end, but autumn in North Carolina and many other places is amenable to outdoor pastimes. Enjoy your autumn.


[1] Shakespeare’s Sonnets 18 & 73

Farewell Summer?

It’s September 1st already. Here in the United States, most people are talking as though summer is over. I think what they really mean is that summer break is over. I can assure you that here in the South, we have plenty more ninety degree days ahead of us. And several more longer days than nights as well. In fact, the fall equinox is not until September 22nd—at 10:29 PM EDT to be exact, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. The fall (autumnal) equinox, as you may know, is when both night and day are each about 12 hours long, and it’s when the fall season officially begins.

But nobody likes a stick in the mud, so I’ll get on the bandwagon and look back whimsically at the summer of 2014. It was a busy one, at times a challenging one, and most definitely a fun one. As I was organizing my photos yesterday—a never-ending chore for a shutter bug—I came across a few gems that brought back memories of places and people and summer adventures.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens
I only visited Duke Gardens a handful of times over the past few months—I used to go there nearly every day! It’s been a real culture shock, but a reality of my circumstances. Whether one goes there 100 times or 1 time, however, there’s always something to photograph!

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A cabbage white butterfly with its wings tucked. When the butterfly spread its wings, I could see one black spot, signifying that it was a male (females have two spots on each wing). — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

Lake Johnson
I started taking photography classes, but I am sorry to say that I’ve fizzled out a bit. Let me back up: I took an introductory class, where I learned how to take pictures in manual mode. I graduated to intermediate photography; but unfortunately, I showed up to the first class on the wrong day. The studio was locked up tighter than a drum. The class was the night before. It was kind of downhill from there. I’m more of a “see-what-I-like-and-take-50-pictures-of-the-same-thing-and-hope-at-least-one-of-them-turns-out” kind of gal. Turns out, tinkering with aperture, etc. stresses me out—and then photography is no longer fun. Maybe I’ll get better with practice. …I went to Lake Johnson in Raleigh, NC, back in early summer to practice:

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Here’s a shot that I took where I changed the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed as part of a homework assignment. — Lake Johnson pedestrian bridge; Raleigh, NC

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By the boathouse, I encountered a greylag goose sitting on her nest. — Lake Johnson; Raleigh, NC

North Carolina Botanical Garden
My young nephew spent a couple of days with me in early July—and he made it back home in one piece! In between his Lego construction projects, we visited the North Carolina Botanical Garden, where he was an eager explorer and birdwatcher.

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My nephew was blown away by the height and size of this beautiful sunflower at the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill NC.

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My nephew and I spent most of our time in the bird shelter, consulting the poster of North Carolina birds and identifying them as they stopped by the feeders. Pictured here is a male cardinal, our state bird. — North Carolina Botanical Garden; Chapel Hill, NC

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My favorite visitor was the white-breasted nuthatch. I like the way nuthatches hang sideways or upside down, a posture which plays an important role in their foraging. Nuthatches probe into bark with their straight, pointed bills in search of insects. They stuff nuts into crevices and pound them open with their strong bills, thus giving them the name nuthatch. — North Carolina Botanical Garden; Chapel Hill, NC

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My nephew didn’t quite know what to make of some of the aquatic plants at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. (Chapel Hill, NC)

Weycroft Tobacco Barn
The tobacco industry is but a shadow of its former self. North Carolina was once a significant contributor to tobacco—from the field to the carton to the consumer. At one time, there were over half a million tobacco barns—simple, wooden structures used for curing the tobacco—that dotted the North Carolina countryside. Now, only about 50,000 tobacco barns remain and most of those are in gross disrepair. Life goes on, as they say, but it’s always delightful when I spot a tobacco barn, particularly a restored or reclaimed one.

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On a visit in late June, my nephew and I explored this restored, circa 1870 tobacco barn in Weycroft Preserve. A recalling of days gone by, tools associated with tobacco farming are affixed to the other side of the structure.  — Chatham County, NC

Fearrington Village
I heart Fearrington. In fact, I’ve blogged about it before, both here and here. It’s such a local treasure; and its crown jewel is the Fearrington House Restaurant. Ranked as one of American’s top restaurants, Fearrington House puts the fine into dining and does so in a farmhouse setting. I’ve had reservations three times, and all three times I’ve had to cancel—each reason increasingly more calamitous than the previous. The closest I’ve gotten so far is sitting in the white adirondack chairs out front. They provide a relaxing view of the Belties (Belted Galloway cows) in the pasture. My sister and I do have reservations for September. …Lord willing. Lord willing.

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The Fearrington House Restaurant in Pittsboro, NC. Photo credit: L. Morrison

As I eagerly await the true arrival of fall, I’ll resist the urge to put away my sandals and sleeveless tops. And although a sense of fall is in our thoughts and conversations even now, most likely summer will fade into autumn in much the same way as the late British poet, Philip Larkin, describes:

Autumn has caught us in our summer wear.